The Knife Makes the Hunter: How to Choose the Best Hunting Knife
Why the One-size-fits-all Approach Doesn’t Work for Hunting
Knives have been companions of mankind since ancient times. From weapons to religious ornaments, knives have played a very important role in shaping the history of humankind. One of the most significant functions of knives has been hunting.
Each knife is different from each other, and choosing the best hunting knife is almost impossible. Where one model excels, another one may fail. Hunting knives are no exception to this. There are thousands of models you can choose from, but the best hunting knives should be able to do anything from chopping thick foliage following game to skinning, cutting and slicing. While they could potentially help you clean fish, you may also be interested in our fishing knives post. Now let’s get down to business.
What Should You Look For in a Hunting Knife?
Before looking for a knife to buy, we need to know what we want and what we need. You should assign a budget, and consider the usage it’s going to get, for example, how often you actually go hunting. You should also consider getting a survival knife if you plan to stay in the wild for a long time, but for now let’s get started.
Size is an important factor when considering to purchase a hunting knife. Bigger animals require bigger knives, while the opposite holds true for smaller animals. An all-around solid size are knives with a length of about 4 inches, since they will work fine for both hunting and everything that comes after it, like gutting and cutting.
Typically you will find carbon steel and stainless steel with many different variations. You can check our post about survival knives where we cover blade materials more in depth.
Carbon steel is more durable than stainless steel, and it’s also cheaper to get. Lacking the chromium that carbon steel has, it tends to rust and corrode easier. Stainless steel is easier to maintain.
Ceramics are another option also discussed on the survival knife article. They are less common that other materials, but will not rust under any circumstance. The tradeoff is that they’re more fragile, so dropping them could crack the blade or even break it.
Our recommendation is to go with stainless steel. It’s the most popular choice among experienced hunters and the differences in sharpness aren’t that noticeable unless you are really picky.
Straight blade vs. Serrated blade in hunting knives
When choosing between serrated blades and straight blades, one should always determine the amount to cut, frequency of use, thickness, type of cut to be made.
Serrated blades have a saw-like blade, and they work really well with tasks that require aggressive sawing, like cutting through bones and cartilage. Serrated blades are also faster when cutting as long as precision is not an issue.
Straight blades are more suited to precision cuts. When hunting, you may use it for chopping and slicing meat. This type of blade generally requires more effort to use than a serrated one, so continuous use could wear down the user. They also require to be sharpened more frequently than serrated edges. Overall, plain edge is a better if you only can choose a type of blade and are serious about hunting, since its uses are not as limited as serrated blades.
“Combo edges” are a common option if you want to get the best of both worlds but don’t want to spend money on two different knives, since they have a partially serrated blade in a single product.
Fixed Blades vs. Folded Blades
Like with most other kind of knife, there’s an option to get fixed blades knives and folded blades knives.
Both sides have their supporters, and at the end of the day is a matter of personal preference. That said, fixed blade hunting knives make skinning and cutting meat easier.
Fixed blades are stronger, since they are constructed by just one piece and don’t have any movable parts (they’re overall more reliable). They are also easier to clean, because there’s no risk of substances entering the internal mechanism of the knife. Given their size, they’re not exactly the easiest tools to carry around (that’s where folding-knives shine), but they make up for it with their cost (they’re generally cheaper). Folding knives are more compact and easier to carry, and are suited for quicker tasks that don’t require as much precision.
You should look for a handle that is ergonomic and comfortable to hold, and that it’s made of quality materials. Skip fancy handles made of bone, and instead choose wood or synthetic materials, like nylon.
Hunting Knife Reviews: Finding the Best Fixed Blade and Folding Blade Knives
If you are looking to buy a fixed blade hunting knife or a folding blade knife, check out some of our hunting knife reviews here at A Tool for Every Job.
|Knife||Weight (ounces)||Total length (inches)||Blade length (inches)||Material||Price|
|SOG Seal Pup Elite||5.4||9.5||4.85||AUS8 stainless steel||$$|
|Buck 110BRS||7.2||4.875||3.75||420HC steel clip blade||$|
|Kershaw Ken Onion Blur||4.2||7.88||3.38||13C26 stainless steel||$$|
Another great fixed blade hunting knife. The Seal Pup is an extremely durable knife that will retain its sharpness under the worse kind of abuse. The 4.85 inch blade is made of AUS8 stainless steel, having undergone SOG’s CHT (Cryogenic Heat Treatment) process. Its handle is made of glass-reinforced nylon, and offers great grip thanks to the textures around it. The knife is extremely lightweight, weighing just 5.4 ounces, and it also includes a leather sheath for increased portability. It’s really sharp out of the box and doesn’t really need that much maintenance
This knife is a classic in every sense of the word. The model features a 3 ¾ inch 420HC steel clip blade known for its durability. It’s easy to sharpen, and will stay sharpened for a long time. This Buck knife uses a full straight blade, which has a lock-blade mechanism, so it won’t accidentally snap one of your fingers. It´s overall a great hunting knife, and it´s been really popular for over 50 years among beginners and hardcore hunters alike.
The Blur features a 3-3/8 inch blade made of 13C26 stainless steel, with the option to buy the blade straight or serrated. It has a comfortable grip with thin rubber inserts. The build quality is really good for the price, it packs one of the fastest assisted opening systems, and the knife does a good job retaining its sharpness over long periods of time. There are however some minor issues, like reported failure on the liner lock or opening mechanism by some customers. Even with those issues, the Kershaw Blur is still a solid option at that price range.